According to a survey published in the journal Gender and Society in April 2011, half of Americans think women should be legally required to take on their husband’s name after marriage. These results show that despite gains in gender equality, many people remain extremely traditional when it comes to relationships.

For many women, the decision to switch last names is a no-brainer, they do so willingly. But for others–especially women who have build a name for themselves in their careers–a name change may not be what they really want to do.

The tradition of changing a woman’s dates back centuries and typically signaled a woman’s lack of legal authority over her affairs. In the U.S., the tradition dates back to the 1800s. Back then, “U.S. common law abided by the doctrine of coverture. Under coverture, a married woman had no rights to her own property or to make contracts in her own name — and indeed, she had no right to her own name at all. Her husband took on all legal rights for the couple.”

Despite the unfairness of such laws, “coverture didn’t fully fade from the U.S. legal system until the 1960s and ‘70s; remnants included laws in some states forbidding women from taking out their own lines of credit.”

In spite of the history behind changing names, many women think it’s the best option for a family, especially when they have children. Many moms want to have the same last names as their children and feel that changing their names is the easiest way to show family unity.

In recent times, many women have been trying to bridge the gap between keeping their identities and joining with their husband by hyphenating their names, but some men see this as a rejection.

Whatever option a women chooses, one thing is clear: Changing one’s name is both personal and political and the debate on whether it’s necessary or not, wil continue to rage on.

Do you think women should be legally required to change their names after marriage? 

  • Amanda Rudolph

    I want to keep my name now just to spite the assholes that say otherwise

  • Andie

    I think women should be able to do whatever we want. We should be able to have autonomy over ourselves like basically every single man in this “free” nation.

  • Dipshit Davey-poo

    Cool story bro. I have a solution. All men will be legally required to take their wife’s last name.

    Bam. Solved.

  • Sarah

    My family sharing one name feels right to me, but where that name comes from doesn’t matter. Personally, I got teased for my surname in school, and my fiancé has a really nice surname, so we’ll be using his. If something else works for another family? None of my business – if it works for them. if they build their family identity on something other than a word (like love) and hopefully educate their kids on why they made that choice – and that it is a choice – power to them.
    In terms of geneology and ease of tracing ancestry, it makes sense to keep names consistent – but with technology these days, it will never be as hard again to track parenting by surname – whether surname was a mothers or a fathers.
    I dont like women taking their husbands name being the default option, because of its origins in women being viewed as property. I dont want my daughter to feel obliged to give up a part of her identity when she marries. I want her to know she has a choice, to find what works for her and her partner.

  • Lee

    Lol wow… I guess two women getting married would knock their argument into a tail spin.

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